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Psychiatry Res. 2009 Jul 15;173(1):22-30. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2008.07.012. Epub 2009 May 12.

Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) of diffusion tensor imaging data in alcohol dependence: abnormalities of the motivational neurocircuitry.

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Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases, San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA.


Previous diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) studies indicated microstructural disruption of white matter in alcohol dependence. To investigate the microstructure of primary neurocircuitry involved in alcohol use disorders, the present study used Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS) of DTI measures as well as probabilistic tractography. Eleven recovering alcoholics in their first week of abstinence from alcohol were compared with 10 light-drinking controls; diffusion measures were correlated with measures of neurocognition and drinking severity. Regions characterized by low fractional anisotropy and high mean diffusivity included cortico-striatal fibers and those in frontal white matter and limbic pathways. Greater diffusion abnormalities in sections of commissural fibers (inter-hemispheric connections) were associated with greater drinking severity, and lower fractional anisotropy measures in frontal and limbic fiber tracts correlated with lower visuospatial memory performance. These study findings provide direct evidence of compromised integrity of the motivational brain circuitry in alcohol use disorders. These abnormalities in fiber connections could be partially responsible for deficiencies in executive functions, behavioral regulation, and impulse control commonly described in alcohol dependence.

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